First American Art Magazine No. 22, Spring 2019 - Page 61

CHASE KAHWINHUT EARLES more statements in the overall shape of the pot that look like something brand new, even though it is an ancient form. I add my statements through those touches. Those neon glaze pieces had mixed reviews when I was showing them. They are important. Those shapes are all ancient kinds of shapes, and people look at them like, “What are these crazy things?!” It’s just giving shapes a new light. There’s this Caddo Pop Art—every- thing is bright colors and big statements. Caddo Pop forms made of these ancient shapes with [new] shiny, neon glazes. I just put them out there and see what people think about it. I keep developing new designs and using new materials. We did make the same pottery for about 2,000 years, but I saw in our ancient history that we went from fiber to sand temper, and then we started using shell, and that was the latest thing. I know our shapes evolved to post-contact, when you start seeing shapes in Caddo pottery that mimic the glassware and the chalices and the metal appliances that were brought from overseas. Caddo chalices—it’s crazy! They were mimicking what they saw. I’ll be keeping tradition alive and will move forward. I am going to buy clay, I’m going to shape it the way I shaped the ancient pots, then I’m going to glaze things if I use the kiln, and I am going to make new ceramic fine art. It’s moving forward, rather than replication. JME: Last May you said, “Our tribal pottery, Caddo, is very distinct. It’s unique to our tribe, and it’s also very prolific.” What features distinguish it, and in what specific ways is Caddo pottery prolific? CKE: I started going to the Caddo Conference and the Southeastern Archaeological Conference and talking with professional archaeologists from universities and businesses that deal with Southeastern and Caddo pottery. Seeing the pictures and the collections, I started piecing together what makes a Caddo pot. I can say it’s brown. It’s something that you see repetitiously—the gourd bottle shape was very specific to the Caddos. Yes, other tribes did do it, but not in the numbers that we’re talking about. With Caddo you’ll see 200, 300. We had a distinct chocolate brown color. We did have light-colored orange ones, white ones, black ones. But most of our pottery was chocolate brown with a subtle finishing. If you go too far [in firing] it goes black, or if you char too much it turns black, or if you give it too much oxygen it stays tan. It’s a subtle thing that we obviously strove to do. The majority of our pottery was burnished, but not like the super shine that you see today. We had a very velvet finish, like it was shined up and burnished and then rubbed soft again. One of the other things very specific to our tribe is our effigy pots. These are pots in the shapes of animals. We’re just talking about the animals that were in a homeland area, so it was mostly bears, ducks, fish, and turtles. You see turtles and fish in other Mississippian pottery, too, but there are some unique styles to the effigies that you see coming from the Caddo homeland. The way we make pottery is we fire it, and then we go back and engrave the design SPRING 2019 | 59